Over Mountain Weavers Guild

Over Mountain Weavers Guild in Kingsport, Tenn.

“This,” said Marita Swartz, waving her hand over the intricately woven pattern of threads taking shape from her loom, “gives me life.”

Swartz is one of over forty members of the Over Mountain Weavers Guild, a guild that gathers at least once a month at the Exchange Place, a kind of living history museum in Kingsport, Tennessee.

“It’s an art,” said Jean Green, “It makes you appreciate things. Not everything you can just go into Wal-Mart and buy.”

Many of the guild members are retired, though not all, and many see the art of weaving as a way to reconnect with the way things were done in the past. For some, it is cathartic, providing an opportunity to take something intangible and shape it into something real, something permanent.

“I like the community aspect of the guild,” said Dottie Biggar. “One of the challenges after retiring is finding a community where you have a sense of self-worth – where you have something to contribute.”

For others, like Phil John, it provides an opportunity to challenge oneself to recreate the intricate designs others have produced. He finds patterns and projects in publications and works to replicate and improve upon them.

In a way, weaving something from thread is an archaic and ineffectual means to produce an article of clothing. But watching the shuttle pass between the threads, taking note of the clever, complex manipulation of pedals, we can see the vision in the weavers mind realized; reminding us that the act of creating is not the same as simply producing something new.

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There is something holy about creating, something sacred about bringing forth something new and unique. It fulfills an innate desire in our hearts to introduce something novel into this world.

“God never wove this *warp,” Swartz said. “I did.”

“We continue God’s creation,” she added. “We are co-creators with Him. Being creative is a part of spirituality. We continue to manifest creation. This is part of my experience of God, for me that is vital.”

Many of the conversations she has with other members of the guild are not about the technique of weaving, but about the spirituality of weaving. Which makes it no small wonder that the finished pieces they produce are more than just cloth. They are an extension of the creator and the created.

*The warp is a group of threads on a loom, which are passed over and under by other threads – the weft – in order to make cloth.
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